We noted the other day how the Nationals intend to pursue at least one starting pitcher this winter, trying to add some much-needed depth to what was baseball’s worst rotation this season. If that’s priority No. 1 over the next few months, priority No. 2 is the addition of a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Er, make that two middle-of-the-order hitters.
Last week’s decision to non-tender Luke Voit leaves the Nats with a couple of pretty big holes in the heart of their lineup. They already were going to need a corner outfielder after parting ways with Yadiel Hernandez. Now they’re going to need somebody to take Voit’s spot, whether that’s as designated hitter or first baseman.
Think of it this way: Between first base, left field and DH, the Nationals currently have one capable answer in Joey Meneses (who, it should be noted, is anything but a sure thing after only two months in the majors, no matter how impressive those two months were).
That’s two spots that need to be addressed, and there just don’t appear to be any viable in-house options, at least not anybody who could be trusted to play every day.
So, how does general manager Mike Rizzo go about addressing these needs? We still don’t know what kind of budget Rizzo has been given to work with from an unstable ownership situation. But there’s not much left on the books after all the moves they’ve made, especially when it comes to a lineup that for now has only two regulars set to make more than the league minimum in Victor Robles and Lane Thomas (each projected to make between $2 million and $2.5 million via arbitration).
So it stands to reason there’s at least a bit of available money to spend on at least one slugger.
The Nationals aren’t going after the biggest prize of the winter, not that Aaron Judge would be looking to come to D.C. anyway. But would they go big on Brandon Nimmo, a proven leadoff hitter? It would require a long-term commitment, but maybe they’d be willing to go there.
If they insist on staying with short-term deals, they could try for Jurickson Profar, who has the added benefit of playing multiple positions. They could try to bring back Josh Bell to play first base and move Meneses to the outfield or DH, but you have to think Bell is going to want to play for a contender after finally getting his first taste of October baseball in San Diego.
Mitch Haniger could possibly be had on a one-year deal. So could Joey Gallo, who might hit a ton of homers to make up for a weak batting average. They could also take a gamble on Michael Conforto, who missed the entire 2022 season following shoulder surgery and will be motivated to bounce back and earn a bigger contract next winter.
Trey Mancini and Adam Duvall have track records, and though both might be considered past their prime, either would provide a boost to a Nationals lineup that needs all the added thump it can get.